BBC Orders Scottish Series, New True-Life Drama on London Serial Killer

BBC Orders Scottish Dramas and True-Life
Courtesy of BBC

The BBC has ordered up a new true-life drama about a London serial killer from the team behind British ratings sensation “The Moorside,” along with two new Scottish dramas for flagship channel BBC One. Charlotte Moore, the broadcaster’s director of content, announced the new commissions Thursday at the Edinburgh Intl. Television Festival.

“The Barking Murders” will be a new three-part factual drama from Jeff Pope (“Philomena”) and Neil McKay, the team behind “The Moorside,” which broke BBC viewing records for a new drama earlier this year. “The Moorside” (pictured), starring Sheridan Smith, dramatized the 2008 search for a missing British schoolgirl. “The Barking Murders” will tell the story of convicted serial killer Stephen Port from the point of view of the families of his four victims, focusing on the fight to uncover the truth about the deaths.

McKay said of the project: “Four young men with their entire future ahead of them lost their lives in a brutal and tragic way. This is a story not only of the consequences of that loss but also of the extraordinary courage and resilience shown by those who loved them as they sought truth and justice.”

Moore and BBC drama chief Piers Wenger also announced two new four-part dramas to be set and filmed in Scotland, psychological drama “The Cry” and legal thriller “The Victim.”

Both shows will air on BBC One, which remains Britain’s most-watched channel, even among 16-to-34-year-olds, Moore said. “That appetite for people to come together and watch together is still there,” Moore told listeners in Edinburgh, adding: “I’ve always said, ‘Every week of the year, there’s got to be something for everyone on BBC One.’”

Moore also addressed the controversy that erupted last month over the gap in pay between men and women at the world’s most famous public broadcaster. Figures ordered released by the government showed that two-thirds of BBC talent making more than £150,000 ($195,000) a year are men. Ethnic minorities are also severely underrepresented among high earners at the Beeb.

Moore, one of the female high earners, said she would fight for gender equality but also for diversity more broadly. “The fantastic repercussion of all this is that [BBC boss] Tony Hall said, ‘Right, by 2020, we’re going to close that gender pay gap,’” she said. “We need to make sure there is equality. Yes, it’s about gender, but my God, it’s about diversity in a broader sense, too. If we’re going to be a broadcaster that reflects the nation, we’ve got to make sure we reflect the nation on-screen and off-screen.”

She called on other players in the industry to follow the BBC’s pledge. “We need other broadcasters, other institutions, other companies to follow suit,” Moore said. “All of us need to take that commitment.”

Moore also said she wished “Great British Bake Off” well in its new season beginning next week on rival broadcaster Channel 4, which controversially outbid the BBC for new seasons of the blockbuster show. Losing “Bake Off” is a blow for the BBC, but Moore said she had had to make tough financial decisions and consider whether paying so much for “Bake Off” would prevent the BBC from investing in other projects.

“The Cry” is the first TV commission for Scottish production company Synchronicity Films, which previously produced three features, including Andrew Haigh’s acclaimed sophomore film “Weekend.” Set in Scotland and Australia, “The Cry” chronicles the disintegrating psyche of a young woman as she and her husband deal with the abduction of their baby while suffering in the glare of public scrutiny. It is based on a novel by Helen Fitzgerald and adapted by Jacquelin Perske.

“The Cry” is produced by Brian Kaczynski and executive produced by Claire Mundell for Synchronicity. Elizabeth Kilgarriff and Gaynor Holmes will serve as executive producers for the BBC. DRG is handling distribution rights.

STV Productions’ contemporary legal thriller “The Victim,” written by Rob Williams, is told through the eyes of both the plaintiff and the accused. A hard-working family man is the victim of an attack after being identified online as a notorious child murderer living under a new identity. The mother of a murdered teenager is accused of revealing the identity online and conspiring to have the man killed. Is the man actually the child murderer or the tragic victim of mistaken identity?

“The Victim” is executive produced by Sarah Brown and Williams for STV Productions and Kilgarriff and Holmes for BBC One.

“We’ve been very public about trying to boost our drama output as part of our strategy of providing programs that are more relevant for audiences in Scotland – but which can also be enjoyed as compelling stories no matter where you live,” said Donalda MacKinnon, director of BBC Scotland.

“The Barking Murders” is written and executive produced by McKay and executive produced by Pope, the Oscar-nominated and BAFTA-winning writer of “Philomena,” for ITV Studios. Lucy Richer will also serve as executive producer. Ken Horn will serve as producer.

Other commissions announced by Moore include a one-off hour-long documentary “Grenfall,” about the Grenfall Tower fire in West London in June this year, which will be produced by Minnow Films and directed by Ben Anthony. Morgan Matthews will serve as executive producer.